WhatsApp has made a statement saying that it will not oblige with the regulations laid out under the UK Online Safety Bill. WhatsApp's CEO Will Cathcart told BBC that the Meta-owned company would not decrease its security following any government orders.
The Online Safety Bill aims to detect legal but harmful activities, abuse, and harassment. However, due to the uncertain political situation in the UK, passing of the legislation has been postponed. The bill would also allow the government to detect photos displaying child sexual abuse by scanning private messages, which violates the end-to-end encryption (E2EE) policy of a lot of social media platforms, including WhatsApp.
“Client-side scanning cannot work in practice. If we had to lower security for the world, to accommodate the requirement in one country, that...would be very foolish for us to accept, making our product less desirable to 98% of our users because of the requirements from 2%."
He claimed that the bill proposes platforms to read users’ messages directly or indirectly and concluded by saying, “I don't think people want that."
On the other hand, The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) had critical views. Andy Burrows, Head of Child Safety Online Policy at the NSPCC, tweeted the following:
WhatsApp tells @BBCNews it would rather pull its services from the UK than comply with regulation. Privacy-preserving measures to detect child abuse are technically feasible, so let’s be clear - this is ideological opposition not technical barriers https://t.co/Y5aRP1Fraf— Andy Burrows (@_andyburrows) July 29, 2022
Cathcart further stated that hundreds of illegal child abuse photos are already detected on WhatsApp. He added, "there are techniques that are very effective and that have not been adopted by the industry and do not require us sacrificing everyone's security, we report more than almost any other internet service in the world.”